Cisse, his beloved Marseille – and the difference a move makes

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Today’s edition of The National, Abu Dhabi carries, as the cover story on Sport, the fruits of some work of mine on this season’s revival of Olympique de Marseille. For OM, a bit like for us, but at a different end of our respective leagues, a lot depends on this weekend’s results.

If OM win tomorrow against Lyon, champions for the past seven seasons but effectively out of the race, they’ll be on course for their own first title since the 1992-93 one was taken from them over corruption allegations.

If they lose or draw, and Bordeaux take three points tonight, it will start looking more like second place for them; today starts with the two clubs level on points and very close on goal difference.

Pete Sixsmith challenged me to get Djibril Cisse into the piece and since I had 2,000 words to play with and Cisse is deeply associated with OM, and indeed on loan to us from them, that was hardly a problem.

This is where he came into it:

France probably needs OM to win the league. What it will mean for the club, and for the city, is incalculable. Djibril Cisse, the OM striker on loan to the struggling Premier League club Sunderland, has neatly summed up the fervour surrounding the club: “The Marsellais are more than supporters. They are a people.”

The quote appears in a nifty little book of sayings about OM that I found in the shop.

I asked OM fans I met about Cisse and the view was uniform: good player, not very fond of passing to a better placed teammate and, though these are the words of one supporter, “a lot of money for what you get”.

But Salut! Sunderland would be delighted if he repaid some our investment in his season on Monday night, assuming he plays a part, and secures us a victory and survival. He remains a class player; Pete and I both marvelled at that reverse pass against Hull that should have led to a second goal (a sublime move that left the finishing touch to, of all people, Andy Reid, a man rather better at passing than scoring).

What must be going through his thoughts this weekend, with OM so close to glory again, can only be guessed.

If you are interested, the article can be found at this link.

The first picture is from the rather desultory shop/museum at the Stade Velodrome. The second is a group of schoolboys from Avignon that I met during my own visit to the ground.

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And this is from OM’s last match an efficient 2-0 win at Nice – previously the stamping ground of Eric Roy and Lilian Laslandes ..,

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